My Favorite 2017 Inks

favorite 2017 inks

Here are my five favorite inks from 2017:

KWZ Baltic Memories, Walk Over Vistula and Warsaw Dreaming

KWZ Chicago Blue

Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall

This was a very easy list to compile. I looked through everything I’d tried this year, and these were the obvious standouts. These five inks made the biggest impression on me. On a scale of one-to-ten, these go to 11. One became one of the inks I use most.

KWZ Warsaw Dreaming and Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall are in some ways at opposite ends of a continuum, with one being the darkest (the black Warsaw Dreaming) and one being the lightest (the green-blue-gray Bayou Nightfall). But they are similar in other ways. Both are quiet, but have depth. These inks don’t shout for attention, but they repay your attention.

Baltic Memories, in contrast … this ink does grab your attention. It walks onstage and starts singing. It is super sheeny. It is dynamic. You will notice it.

Walk Over Vistula sort of snuck onto this list, because it seemed inseparable from the other two KWZ inks released at the same time. I think of the KWZ trio together. But Walk Over Vistula deserves its spot. It’s a bridge between the quieter inks on this list, and the bravura Baltic Memories.

Chicago Blue is a super-solid everyday blue ink. Which isn’t to suggest that it’s dull, just that it’s so good you may not notice how good. It’s the Tom Hanks of ink. Oh, it’s got sheen, if you like that, and saturation. But it’s also easy-to-clean and behaves in all my pens. It was my most-used ink this year, along with old standby Pelikan Brilliant Black.

All of the inks on my favorites list came out in 2017. But there were other 2017 inks I loved, as well as older inks I didn’t try until 2017. Here are ten that were also particularly good, in my view — my 2017 Honorable Mentions:

Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight Blue

KWZ Honey

Papier Plume Mardi Gras Indians

Papier Plume Moss Green

Papier Plume Pecan

Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice

Papier Plume Streetcar Green

Platinum Classic iron gall inks

Robert Oster Bondi Blue

Robert Oster Rubine

Yes, the Platinum Classic line comprises six different inks. That’s not cheating; it’s creative accounting.

I’d love to hear other people’s favorites. Maybe I can try them in 2018.

Three Months and Counting: An Extended Test of Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

Pilot Plumix

Holy hell: it’s been more than three months.

Back on June 9, I filled a clean, empty cartridge with an iron gall ink and fitted that into a clean Pilot Plumix fountain pen. The ink was Platinum Classic Cassis Black, one of Platinum’s new line of colorful iron gall inks for fountain pens. I put it nib upward in the pen cup at Fountain Pen Follies World Headquarters and Laboratory of Fancy Science. The experiment had begun.

I wanted to see how the iron gall ink would react over an extended period in contact with the Pilot’s stainless steel nib. Would the iron gall ink stain, corrode, gunk up or otherwise cause problems? Remember that we don’t worry about using iron gall fountain pen ink in pens with gold nibs, because gold does not react to the iron gall’s acidic element. But is there a problem with the more common, and cheaper, stainless steel nibs?

After a month, on July 11 or so, I thought it was time for an interim look at the Plumix. Click here for the full report, if you like, but the short answer was, all was well. The ink flowed, and the nib and pen were still perfect. I only used the pen once more, on July 22, briefly. Then I put the pen back in the pen cup and ignored it until earlier this week. Now it’s time for a three-month report.

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Update: Testing Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

Pilot Plumix

Platinum’s 2017 release of six colorful iron gall inks, called the Classic Line, has made me very happy. I love iron gall inks for fountain pens, and appreciate the gentler ones, which I call “modern iron gall inks,” after KWZ Ink’s low-maintenance iron galls.

The new Platinum lineup seems very nice, and very low-maintenance. There’s an overview of all six here. I’ve used three of these on an extended basis, and reviewed those three here: Citrus, Sepia and Cassis. I got my samples from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith, who sells ink as well as pens, luckily for me.

I’ve recently been testing one of the Platinum Classic inks — Cassis Black — for an extended time in a Pilot Plumix fountain pen with a stainless steel nib. I wanted to really see just how safe these inks are with any pen. To see if the ink would react with the pen’s stainless steel nib, or clog or stain, and if so, how long would it take.

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Quick Look: Platinum Classic Inks

Platinum Classic Line ink writing sample

I was lucky enough to get samples of the new Platinum Classic Line of inks. I dipped them all with a Kaweco dip pen. (And yes my writing is even worse with a dip pen, but it was the quickest way to look at them all.)

I like all six, but my initial favorites are Cassis and Citrus, which darken a lot and are colors I happen to like. Sepia is a little unexciting for me, as is Khaki — both end up more in the brown-black range, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Lavender is really nice for a purple if you don’t skimp on the amount of ink. Forest was nice, too, as it turned very dark green. I wonder if the inks will keep darkening as the days go on; I feel like they might.

However, I want to warn people: my first impressions lead me to believe that these are going to be higher maintenance iron gall inks. They seem strong. So I’m going to be careful picking an appropriate pen.

The main thing in choosing a pen, for me, will be to pick a pen with a gold nib, without any metal trim on the section end that could come into contact with the ink when filling. That’s because my dip pen nib looked like this by the time I had finished dipping three inks.

discolored dip pen nib

The surface of this nib’s plating was discolored where it made contact with the ink. I don’t mind that on a steel dip pen nib costing $3. But I would mind terribly if that happened on an expensive pen. A gold nib is not subject to this type of damage, and that’s what I’ll use.

Given the visible damage quickly inflicted on this dip pen nib, more care needs to be taken choosing a pen/nib for these Platinum Classic inks than with other iron gall inks for fountain pens. For instance, most KWZ iron gall inks don’t require this kind of caution — the ones I’ve tested have been perfectly safe for Safari nibs.

Here’s why, I think: Platinum Classic Line iron gall inks are described as “highly water resistant and suitable for permanent preservation,” per Platinum. That places them in the document ink category, like a Registrar’s ink. That would explain a higher iron gall content, higher acidity and also the higher-maintenance and greater risk to metal plating.

In contrast, most KWZ iron gall inks are not document inks, and not as permanent. And these lighter iron gall inks from KWZ also are more gentle on pens. It’s a tradeoff.*

I also will choose a wetter pen for these inks, because I suspect that the wetter the pen the darker the color you’ll end up with. I saw a dramatic color change with all of these, as they darkened noticeably as they dried. But I also kept dipping to make sure that I had a generous amount of ink on the pen nib.

I’m not surprised: traditional iron gall inks are drier-writing inks. A wet pen is a better match for traditional iron gall inks, so it makes sense that would be true for these Platinum Classic inks, too.


* KWZ Iron Gall Blue Black is a document ink, I’m told, so it should be treated with the same caution as Platinum Classic Line inks. I found KWZ Iron Gall Orange higher maintenance than others, too, so that’s another I’d treat more cautiously.